Today is the 10th October which sees the world ‘celebrating’ World Mental Health Day’.
When I say ‘celebrating’, I simply mean that mental health issues are no longer a ‘hush hush’ topic and should be spoken openly and freely so that it can be dealt with in the right way, by professionals in the relevant fields.
It is a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma in all situations and environments, whether in the home, schools & universities as well as in the workplace.
One aspect I wanted to expand on is around Mental Health & Diet/Food.
Being in the food industry for 6 years and informally much longer than that, I have seen food patterns and fashions change over the years and have indeed tried and tested many different regimes myself.
I wouldn’t say I have any ‘Clinical Mental Health’ issues however of course, through the years, growing up, dealing with many different relationships (parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, boyfriends etc.), and being in many different situations (leaving my home country due to war & upheaval, being in boarding school from the age of 5 – 14 years of age, having to leave college at 17 to be the main bread winner in the family, being independent, experiencing heartbreak, moving cities, moving jobs, losing & gaining friends, redundancy, losing a business and sooooooooooo on) all these can contribute to an imbalance of our stable mind in some shape or form.
However how we choose to deal with these situations is what, in my point of view, either tips us over the edge or makes us stronger in order to be able to deal with un-expant situations.
I was lucky that in my late 30’s I started to think more about life, looking for answers to ALL the ‘Why’ questions of the world, that I’m sure we all have now and then, and actually start educating myself through holistic, spiritual and alternative courses, reading alternative books, looking at how food plays a big part in the overall ‘game of life’ and start doing things for myself that would help me along my journey much later down the line.
Here I wanted to share with you things that have worked for me over the years and have helped me to manage, day by day, to balance my life and enable me to get up every morning and keep going as positively and productively as possible.
- Meditation: this is a stable to my day where I take ‘time out’ to simply be. I started off using ‘guided meditation’ commentaries, that are freely available on line, to help keep me focused and now I simply sit and take a few minutes out to simply be in the moment. In the evenings, when I have more time, I take time out to meditate and to simply give thanks for the day at which point I may put on some instrumental music and turn on a candle to set the mood.
- Food: A balanced mood and feelings of wellbeing can be protected by ensuring that our diet provides adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates, essential fats, proteins, amino acids, vitamins and minerals and water.
- What should I eat:
- East fewer high sugar foods and more wholegrain cereals, nuts, beans, lentils, fruit and vegetables.
- Sugary foods are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. This may cause an initial ‘high’ or surge of energy that soon wears off as the body increases its insulin production, leaving you feeling tired and low.
- Wholegrain cereals, pulses, fruit and vegetables are more filling and, because the sugar in these foods is absorbed more slowly, don’t cause mood swings. These foods are more nutritious as they contain thiamin (B1), a vitamin that has been associated with control of mood, and folate and zinc (supplements of these nutrients have been shown to improve the mood of people with depression in a small number of studies).
- Food Consumption:
- Food production and manufacturing techniques, coupled with changing lifestyles and increasing access to processed foods, mean that our intake of fresh, nutritious, local produce is much lower, at the same time as our intake of fat, sugar, alcohol and additives is much higher. It has been estimated that the average person in the UK and other industrialised countries will eat more than 4 kilogrammes of additives every year.
- Over the last 60 years there has been a 34% decline in UK vegetable consumption with currently only 13% of men and 15% of women now eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. People in the UK eat 59% less fish than they did 60 years ago – decreasing the consumption of essential omega-3 fatty acids.
- What should I eat:
- Water: To keep the body hydrated which enables us to think clearer throughout the day as well as providing much needed water to all our cells (brain and body) which enables us to get going.
- Exercise: This helps to promote well-being for the body as well as for the mind. Where possible, getting out in the fresh air, in open space, amongst trees, water & greenery is extremely rewarding mentally as well as physically and studies have proved that people who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them an enormous sense of well-being. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharper memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives. And it’s also powerful medicine for many common mental health challenges.\\
- Exercise and Depression: Exercise is a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Most importantly, it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.
- Exercise and Anxiety: Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins. Anything that gets you moving can help, but you’ll get a bigger benefit if you pay attention instead of zoning out. Try to notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, for example, or the rhythm of your breathing, or the feeling of the wind on your skin. By adding this mindfulness element—really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise—you’ll not only improve your physical condition faster, but you may also be able to interrupt the flow of constant worries running through your head.
- Exercise and Stress: Ever noticed how your body feels when you’re under stress? Your muscles may be tense, especially in your face, neck, and shoulders, leaving you with back or neck pain, or painful headaches. You may feel a tightness in your chest, a pounding pulse, or muscle cramps. You may also experience problems such as insomnia, heartburn, stomachache, diarrhea, or frequent urination. The worry and discomfort of all these physical symptoms can in turn lead to even more stress, creating a vicious cycle between your mind and body. Exercising is an effective way to break this cycle. As well as releasing endorphins in the brain, physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body. Since the body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so, too, will your mind.
- Exercise and ADHD: Exercising regularly is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce the symptoms of ADHD and improve concentration, motivation, memory, and mood. Physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention. In this way, exercise works in much the same way as ADHD medications such as Ritalin and Adderall.
- Exercise and PTSD and Trauma: Evidence suggests that by really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise, you can actually help your nervous system become “unstuck” and begin to move out of the immobilisation stress response that characterises PTSD or trauma. Instead of thinking about other things, pay close attention to the physical sensations in your joints and muscles, even your insides as your body moves. Exercises that involve cross movement and that engage both arms and legs—such as walking (especially in sand), running, swimming, weight training, or dancing—are some of your best choices. Outdoor activities like hiking, sailing, mountain biking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and skiing (downhill and cross-country) have also been shown to reduce the symptoms of PTSD.
- Being Active: Filling up part of your day with some form of activity(s) helps to gain control over the mind, not letting it be idle or consumed with negative thoughts/patterns. Here are some ways to be active:
- Work (either paid or voluntary)
- Exercise and classes (including meditation, yoga, pilates)
- Local clubs (hobbies, crafts, activities) – a great way to meet new people socially
- Networking groups – a great way to meet new people (more geared towards people in business)
- Family time
- Spending time with friends
- Spending time on your own, perhaps outside walking in the park, having a coffee and reading – being focused on your ‘you time’
- Watching funny films, films/documentaries with meaning (positive messages), Cinema
So to finalise, what I have realised over the years is that you/I never need to be alone.
In this day and age, we all have access to so many resources as well as great professionals who are skilled to help.
Reach out – turn to family and friends. If people don’t know what you are going through, they can’t help. If you are feeling down, sad, upset, lonely, take action. Don’t sit it out as it can sometimes on lead us on a downward spiral.
When walking past people, always smile, say hello, stop and chat to people (where the situation is right :), you really don’t know what other people are going through. NEVER EVER JUDGE OTHERS! 9 times out of 10 your judgements are not accurate. People are all dealing with their own ‘stuff’ whatever it may be, fighting their own battles and the last thing they need is to be ‘written off’!
My motto this year has always been #spreadthelove and I stand by this daily (sometimes need reminding but I get there).
So with all this in mind, I have this has given you some food for thought! It has certainly reminded me of things I had long forgotten. So now I leave you as I head out for my daily walk outside, in the streets, in the park, amongst the trees, lakes and river and recharge my mind and body away from technology.
Until soon, love and light xxx
Some resources taken from: HELPGUIDE.ORG